WBO super-middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders has come to the defense of Daniel Kinahan, a man Irish courts have named as a senior figure in organized crime. Saunders, who is managed by MTK Global — a company co-founded by Kinahan, said Ireland should “appreciate” Kinahan (per Extra.ie).
Saunders comments come after Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his government’s outrage at Kinahan’s involvement in a forthcoming fight between Tyson Fury (another MTK client) and Anthony Joshua.
Varadkar called Kinahan a “well-known crime boss” and asked that boxing broadcasters boycott the fight. Varadkar also revealed that his government have been in contact with the United Arab Emirates regarding Kinahan. Kinahan has been living in Dubai since avoiding an assassination attempt in Dublin in 2016.
In a video released on IFL TV (which publishes a lot of content from MTK) Saunders said, “I’m not [Daniel Kinahan’s] dad, he advises me.” Then, referring to Ireland, he said: ‘I would hate to live in that country, it’s so corrupt — it’s a joke, anything happens and it’s Daniel Kinahan, leave the man alone, he’s getting on with business.”
“A lot of people are very jealous of success, and he’s very good at his job,” continued Saunders. ‘I think he’s too big for Ireland, Ireland should appreciate him for that small country they’ve got.”
Saunders then claimed he had known Kinahan all of his life and that he has, “never heard him talk about any violence.”
Irish media, courts and politicians claim that Kinahan runs the day-to-day operations of the Kinahan criminal organization, a $1 billion drug and arms trafficking ring. Since 2015 the Kinahan group has been involved in a bloody gang war with the Hutch Gang which has resulted in over 20 killings in Ireland and Spain.
Recently Irish press reported that Kinahan was wanted for questioning in three failed murder for hire plots directed at alleged Hutch Gang associates.
Recently Kinahan has attempted to sport-wash his image; using entities like KHK Sports in Bahrain and MTK and individuals like Tyson Fury and Top Rank’s Bob Arum, to present him as the leading boxing power broker in the Middle East.
Defending Kinahan isn’t the first controversial thing Saunders has said lately. In March he posted a video designed to instruct men how to hit their female partners while stuck inside due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the video, the British Boxing Board of Control suspended Saunders’ boxing license.
Saunders had been scheduled to defend his WBO super-middleweight title versus Canelo Alvarez on May 2 in Las Vegas before the pandemic. His suspension might mean he misses out on that fight altogether.